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17 May, 2011

How prepared is East Africa for Oppositions?

What has been going on in Uganda in the realm of politics in the past few weeks is not a new thing in East African countries.

However, the beatings and destruction of property meted out to opposition leaders by Uganda government’s state apparatus has certainly shocked other members in the region
As already noted, anti-opposition stance in the region appears to have come here to stay.

Indeed, there is no a single country in the region that has never harassed opposition parties.

The only difference is perhaps the scale of such harassment that puts such harassment in the Pearl of Africa to a level that could be compared to what is done by occupants of Mirembe or Butabika hospitals in Tanzania and Uganda respectively.

And when one critically looks at what has been going on in Uganda, one thing comes into mind, namely sharing of practices between state apparatus in the region!

For instance, is there any difference between the smashing of window screens of cars owned by members of parliament from the Chadema opposition party in Arusha on January 05th peaceful demonstration this year and on the car of Ugandan opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besisgye during his walk-to-work campaign?

Perhaps a new thing, a creation by Uganda if you like, may be the claimed art of spraying expired tear gas after smashing of window to Dr. Besigye.

Experts have it that expired tear gas is poisonous and kills its victim slowly!
Therefore those who have had expired tear gas sprayed on their lives on earth has been reduced quite considerably.

The question of expired tear gas raises question marks over the state of tear gas sprayed to demonstrators in other parts of the region.

We should not forget what transpired on January 5th this year in Arusha that left three people dead, scores injured and many cars damaged.

A serious note on the need of discussion on how best governments have to handle oppositions across the regional, a Kenyan lost his life among the three stated people in Arusha.

I hold on to speak of Kenyan oppositions, because they have faced a lot to be a good teacher of the East African mockery of democracy. But hopes still hold as a new era Kenyan politics have gone.

All the countries’ constitution admits to respect the human rights, which among many rights address the freedom of expression. I understand well on the aspect of national security which seems to be a good excuse used by the governments in power, but a million dollar question is, how far national security doesn’t breach human rights?

Forgetting the land of Kagame will be unjust on looking at how oppositions are viewed and handled across the region. What faced Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a chairperson of the United Democratic Forces (UDF) who announced to challenge Kagame on presidency and ended up on an arrest with charges of terrorism and threaten national security has a good message.

Patrick Karegeya an émigré Rwanda colonel can add up a story on the treatments from the country’s CEO of Rwanda. As quoted in an interview with Robert Mukombozi; “even the army wasn’t sure about which charges they should prefer against me and where I should be jailed. For all the jail terms I served in Rwanda, the army, under orders of the commander-in-chief, detained me in solitary confinement, not allowing any family member or friend to visit me, which is extreme psychological torture going by the international human rights conventions”

He blamed Kagame’s hand in all that he went through as he puts; “all the orders were coming direct from Kagame. All these are political tools that Kagame uses to silence his opponents”

He even spoke of the death occurring mysteriously to protect the so called “political dominance”; “It is not only Col. Alex Rezinde and Seth Sendashonga (former Internal Security Minister) who died mysteriously around that time. Many people especially politicians, have died under mysterious circumstances I can’t say I don’t have information regarding those cases, but Kagame is the boss so he is in a better position to explain those assassinations and mysterious disappearances of people”.

All the practices against oppositions across the countries imposed a thought as if they are not part of the same societies, they don’t have any good wishes for the countries. The thoughts which are too soon to be admitted especially as they haven’t given chance to reveal their true colours.

One thing we can be sure of, is that the same opposition politicians are originating from our families. They are part of our society. They grew up on our own eyes. We too are part of them in its all sense of meaning.

Are the claims presented on oppositions demonstrations like the rise of costs of living by and large not felt by the society?

On the other hand, one should question his/her mind as to why for example the recent Chadema public rally have large mass to that extent, are they attracted to issues advocated for such as the need to address the high rise of living or a just matter of fanaticism to the party?

What is known is, every government that claims to be democratic has to respect the rights of individuals like that of allowing to vote, and to be voted too. They can be led, as too have rights to lead.

As psychologists do advices on a need of individuals to allow themselves a talk over things in their hearts which act as a medicine to stress and sometimes a useful exercise that can make one avoid to run mental. There is a need for the governments to offer more platforms to its people, whether oppositions or from the party in power to express their feelings. And important suggestions found in their thoughts, when incorporated in actions it won’t be a failure to the government in power but a respect act of collective governance.

We have seen a lot of the tortures, harassments, mistreatment to oppositions. It is high time to see also the other side of Africans, the tolerance abilities to the differences we have, and even going extra miles of offering enough platforms and also receive feedbacks which might includes criticism from all citizens including politicians, activists and journalists.

©Michael Dalali, 2011 May 16th

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